Mac & Cheese, no box involved

I was bringing a meal to my NYE weekend in the Berkshires and I was thinking about what would be easy, travel well, and was good for a group of 8. I came up with mac & cheese. Who doesn’t love it.

Well, I didn’t love mine as much as I anticipated when making it the night before BUT I know what I’ll do for the next time around. It was too dry. The night I cooked it, there was an amazing looking creamy-ness and cheesy texture I couldn’t resist sampling a macaroni before baking.  I cooked it part way before packing it, but maybe I should have kept everything separate since I knew I would have access to a kitchen.

It was good, but it wasn’t amazing. I based it off Alton Brown’s mac & cheese recipe. I switched up the topping to crushed potato chips instead of bread crumbs. I also added some other cheeses.

Ingredients

*special note: this serves about 6 so I doubled it for 8 and had leftovers*
1 pound large elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons mustard
5 cups milk
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
½ cup mozzarella, shredded
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
1 teaspoon koshersalt
Fresh black pepper

Topping:

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup crushed potato chips
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to a bit firmer than al dente.
3) While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep whisking until it is free of lumps for several minutes.

4) Cook bacon until crisp then chop into pieces.
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5) Stir in the milk and simmer for ten minutes.

6) Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the sauce into the macaroni in the casserole dish. Mix in chopped bacon. Top with remaining cheese.

7) Melt the topping butter in a saute pan and toss the chips in to coat. Top the macaroni with the chips. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Leftovers need some additional help to recreate the creamy texture so I add a dribble of milk or cream and a sprinkle of leftover cheese.

I think next time I make mac & cheese I will greatly increase the liquid and severely undercook the pasta since it’ll cook a bit when baking.

Other great additions to baked mac & cheese are: caramelized shallots; cherry or grape tomatoes whole and basil; sometimes I make it Mexican with taco seasoning, pepper jack cheese, green onions, salsa, and topped with crushed tortilla chips. What should I add next time?

How to Cheat on Flour’s Sticky Sticky Buns

Flour’s Sticky Sticky Buns by Joanne Chang

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Sis doesn’t cook a ton, BUT she makes amazing sticky buns. She made them for Christmas breakfast and we loved them.  I learned that they are based on Joanne Chang’s recipe. Chef Chang was on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, where she won. Check out the video.

You could make the whole thing yourself, BUT using pre-made puff pastry makes it a bit more do-able.

Ingredients Goo:

 

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup  water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Basic Brioche Dough (or cheat with frozen puff pastry)
1/4 cup  light brown sugar1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

Directions

First, make the goo. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

On a floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jellyroll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

See? You have plenty to do without making the brioche dough yourself.